Partners Across the Pond

Multinational corporations have to worry about global politics these days almost as much as sales strategy and production efficiency. To help them face these new challenges, Duke Corporate Education Inc. has entered a joint venture with Enterprise LSE, the commercial arm of the London School of Economics and Political Science, to provide executive-education courses that blend proven management procedures with geopolitical insight.

" As large corporations contemplate the world, they're looking for a broader set of understanding than what has traditionally been available," says Simon Flemington, chief executive of Enterprise LSE. "Their core duties are absolutely vital, but global players realize there are other fundamentals that one needs to be aware of."

With access to more than 400 London School of Economics faculty members, who specialize in subjects from political science to anthropology, Enterprise LSE can incorporate views on issues like the economic implications of the World Trade Organization or post-Iraq social and political trends into the customized marketing, finance, and other business-oriented classes that Duke CE now develops for its Fortune 500 courses, says Flemington.

" The complexity of the world is really ratcheting up, and it's more difficult to manage a large organization," says David Miller, director of business development for Duke CE. "We're trying to stay one step ahead of that complexity by anticipating that corporate customers will seek the information that LSE brings."

The joint venture--it carries the long, if unremarkable, name Duke Corporate Education and Enterprise LSE--offers LSE access to Duke CE's management-school competencies and its technical-design expertise, which London's Financial Times has recognized as the best in the world, Flemington says. In fact, it was Duke CE's technology that first brought the two for-profit operations together. Officials began discussing a partnership while negotiating terms to allow Enterprise LSE to adopt the D4 software platform Duke CE uses to build online segments of its custom courses.

Officials declined to discuss the ownership structure of the venture, which is based in London, although Miller says Duke CE will be "the lead partner." A search is on for a managing director, but the lack of a full-time leader hasn't stopped managers on both sides of the Atlantic from pushing ahead on various fronts. LSE faculty members already are working with Duke CE to develop corporate programs on health care, and Enterprise LSE has initiated contact with several organizations in Russia, where LSE and Duke will now work together.

Miller says none of Duke's multinational customers has sought a political angle to their executive-education classes--yet. But he says that building the structure to offer it to them in the future is "a well-researched risk."

" It's a little bit of a bet, but Duke Corporate Education is an innovative, risk-taking venture," he says. The courses are designed to help executives "see the world through a different lens."

" The London School of Economics, in addition to having a global presence that will expand our current reach, offers us the chance to introduce executives to different perspectives and new ways of thinking and conducting business."

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